“Shall we ride or walk today?” She slipped her grown hand into his. “Let’s walk, Dad.” They strolled past the barn out into the trees. This was so much better than their telephone visits.
“This one?” He pointed to a Fir tree about 10’ tall. She nodded and he tied the plastic ribbon to its branches.
Snow was on the ground when she got the call to pick up the parcel. A 6’ tube encased the tree wrapped tight with binder twine. Through tears and laughter she unwrapped the precious memory gift. The start of a tradition was born.
During summer visits, Dad and I would take a walk, or sometimes go by horseback, out back, as he called it, to scout for a Christmas tree, one for them and one for me. He was a quiet man, one of few words most would say, so I always enjoyed this time together catching up on the local news, telling him what I had been up to, or wandering through the bush in silence.
We would find the trees we wanted, and Dad would mark them with surveyor’s tape so he could locate them in late November when the snow would be deep. He would go by horseback or on foot if the weather was good to bring them to his shop. Here he would cut mine down to size. Sometimes it would be just the first few feet at the top, or as much as six feet. He would bind the boughs upward along the trunk with binder twine from the barn, wrapping the top and the bottom with gunny sacks. A piece of sonotube a foot longer than the tree was the packaging. The open ends were closed in with whatever he had on hand to do the trick.
He would ship it to me, those nine hundred miles, by bus. Back in the day, this was the best way to ship something this odd in shape and size. He’d call and say, “It’s on its way.” Like I said, a man of few words, but I knew what he meant, and in a few days I would receive another call from the local bus depot.
I would slide it out of the tubing, cut away the binder twine and leave it in the garage to thaw and let the branches fall to their natural state. Then it was time to take it into the house and decorate.
As the years passed, we still made the trek ‘out back’, but now we had company. It was important to Dad to find the right little tree for each of our girls. These were usually the top of some scraggy spruce or fir tree that would make good fire wood. He would tuck them into the sonotube with our tree so each of the girls could have their tree in their rooms to decorate as they pleased.
There were often comments and questions about our trees-where did we find them, it’s so even and natural looking, and will you take us with you next year? That’s when I would tell the story about Dad and our special family tradition.